September 28th, 2013
(as of 2013-09-11 20:00:19 PST)
FIFA 14 [Online Game Code] by Electronic Arts
Experience the emotion of scoring great goals in FIFA 14. The game plays the way great soccer matches are contested, with innovations to the award-winning gameplay that inspire fans to build play through midfield, dictating the tempo of a match. Feel the tension as chances are created, and experience the thrill of hitting the back of the net. A new feature called Pure Shot and a brand-new ball physics system will transform shooting, making every shot attempt feel real, and when players connect with the perfect strike, feel exhilarating. FIFA 14 delivers engaging online features and live services that connect fans to the heartbeat of the sport—and to each other—through EA SPORTS Football Club. FIFA 14 is soccer’s social network, where fans connect, compete and share with millions of others around the world.
Additional features will be revealed in the months leading to the game’s retail launch in Fall 2013.
Requires Origin Client to activate.
Presumably meant to be an (early) April Fools' day joke, Google has made it possible to play Pac-Man using Google Maps.
As discovered by Offworld, pressing the Pac-Man icon in the lower-left corner of the screen while on Google Maps turns almost any area--be it the neighborhood you live in or the busiest streets in New York City--into a Pac-Man level. This comes complete with Pac-Man sound effects and a (very) limited amount of music.
The streets don't necessarily need to be particularly Pac-Man-like, and can include diagonal and curved roads much more complex than what you'd see in the game. The only restriction on where you can play is that there need to be enough roads to actually create a level.
It all works surprisingly well, so check it out for yourself here.
To date, Xbox One hasn't been much of a platform for MMORPGs, but that changes today with the release of Neverwinter.
As announced last month, the Dungeons & Dragons MMO is now available for download on Xbox One. It's a free-to-play game, meaning you can download it and check it out without having to pay a dime. It does, however, require an Xbox Live Gold subscription, although from now until Thursday, April 2, all Xbox Live members--including those with free Silver accounts--can play Neverwinter.
Neverwinter was originally released on PC back in 2013, but, being an MMO, it's been routinely updated since then. GameSpot's updated review from last year noted how it's very possible to reach the level cap without having to spend real-world money.
The Xbox One version of Neverwinter has been updated to integrate with your Xbox Live friends list and support a controller-based interface. It includes all of the base game's content, as well as that of the Tyranny of Dragons expansion.
Publisher Perfect World said last year that Neverwinter's console release was "starting with Xbox One," suggesting a PS4 version could be in the works.
If D&D isn't your thing but you're interested in playing a new MMO on current-gen consoles, The Elder Scrolls Online is coming to PS4 and Xbox One in June without a subscription fee.
Amid reports of Hideo Kojima's strained relationship with Konami, the Kojima Productions logo has been removed from the Silent Hills/P.T. website, leading to questions about the state of the game and the involvement of Kojima himself. Originally, the Kojima Productions logo was featured on the bottom-left corner of the page. However, it's no longer there, with only the Fox Engine logo remaining (see below).
We reached out to Konami to ask about this change and what it might mean for the game, which Kojima is working on with Pan's Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro and The Walking Dead actor Norman Reedus.
When asked for a status update for Silent Hills, including what studio might be working on it and whether or not Kojima and del Toro are still attached to the project, this is what we heard back:
"Konami has switched from a studio-based to a headquarters-based organization, so [Kojima Productions] wouldn't be listed as a studio anymore. At this time, there are no additional updates to share."
Just because Konami isn't ready to share more details about Silent Hills doesn't necessarily mean the project is in trouble. However, with a source telling GameSpot that Kojima will leave Konami after development on Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain wraps up later this year, it does bring up questions about the game's fate.
We'll continue to monitor this story as it unfolds.
Previously, Konami removed the Kojima Productions logo from official artwork for The Phantom Pain and Ground Zeroes. The company also struck a line that read "A Hideo Kojima Game" from marketing materials for both titles. The developer's Twitter account has also since been effectively shut down.
Silent Hills was originally revealed at Gamescom 2014 as horror game P.T. ("playable teaser"), which was launched as a free PlayStation 4 demo on the PlayStation Store with almost no explanation as to what it was. Kojima later said that he wanted to make Silent Hills so scary that it will "make you sh*t your pants." He even joked at the time that the limited edition for Silent Hills would come with a fresh pair of pants.
For more on P.T./Silent Hills, check out GameSpot's video playthrough of the demo above.
You can now tackle Resident Evil: Revelations 2's Raid mode with a friend (or a stranger) online, Capcom has announced.
The latest update for now-complete episodic game Revelations 2 has been released, with the most exciting aspect being the addition of online multiplayer support for Raid mode. This makes good on Capcom's earlier promise to deliver the feature sometime in March following the release of the fourth and final episode.
The update is now available for the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and PC versions of Revelations 2. According to the Capcom Unity blog, the Xbox One version "is taking a little more time to complete, but it should be up and running shortly."
Other changes in today's update include increased difficulty for Raid mode's Code Red stages and a news feed in the main menu that offers information from Resident Evil's official website.
Online Raid mode was initially intended to be part of the game right away, but ended up being delayed in January. Until now, the mode has only been playable solo or with a partner in local split-screen mode--unless you were playing on PC, in which case split-screen (for the campaign and Raid mode) was left out. That resulted in modders patching in local multiplayer support, which in turn prompted Capcom to release a beta version of the feature that it continues to work on.
In a new interview with GamesIndustry International, Fable Legends game director David Eckelberry offers new insight into why developer Lionhead Studios chose a franchise-first free-to-play model for the upcoming Xbox One game. Making the game free-to-play was not a directive that came down from Microsoft higher-ups, but rather it was the result of experimentation and actually came about organically.
Still, Eckelberry acknowledged that free-to-play hasn't always been seen in the best light. It's his job to prove to fans that Lionhead is approaching free-to-play in a way that doesn't come at the cost of the experience, but rather improves the game overall.
"It's a model that is a weapon, in some sense. So a weapon can be used for good and a weapon can be used for evil," he said. "We wanted to be sure that the world knew that we weren't doing this for the reasons of a business model. Nobody came to Lionhead Studios and said, 'We want you to make a free-to-play game.' They said, 'Make a new Fable game.' And we said, 'OK, let's experiment, let's be innovative.'"
"Microsoft is much more interested in making a happy community of players and making the Xbox and Windows 10 a fun place to play--it doesn't need us to be evil," he added.
The reason Lionhead didn't announce Legends' business model until just recently was because the studio wanted players to think of the game as a full-blown, large-scale AAA game. Announcing the game as a free-to-play title could have led to the perception that it was something other than what it is.
"It's the biggest and most expensive Fable game that we've ever made in terms of the amount of time we're investing in it and the size of the team," Eckelberry said. "It's a major project for Lionhead, as big as we've ever done."
"It's the biggest and most expensive Fable game that we've ever made in terms of the amount of time we're investing in it and the size of the team" -- Eckelberry
"We really wanted the world to get a sense of that; we wanted everyone to know we wanted to do this innovative thing," he added. "Look, whether we had charged $60 for it or brought it to market as we are, we wanted people to be excited about playing it, instead of worrying about how they were going to buy it."
Legends launches on Xbox One and PC later this year featuring cross-platform play.
When the game arrives, players will have access to "Season One" content, consisting of a traditional linear RPG storyline and side quests, along with four heroes to play as. Those who choose to play as a villain will have a range of different creatures to command, which are tied into the narrative.
Lionhead is promising that players will be able to experience the entire game for free, with no gated areas, along with open access to all quests, and no energy bar to limit play time.
The recent Super Mario 64 fan project that made the game playable in your browser has, unsurprisingly, been shut down by Nintendo.
When visiting the page where it had been located, you're now greeted by a DMCA copyright infringement complaint that Nintendo sent to the file's host, CloudFlare. As a result, the web player and downloadable version of Super Mario 64 HD are no longer available.
However--as with everything on the Internet--if you already downloaded the game (or know someone who did), there's nothing to stop you from continuing to play it.
Despite the somewhat ambitious-sounding name, Super Mario 64 HD was simply a remake of the N64 game's first level, Bob-omb Battlefield. It was built using the Unity engine and was intended as nothing more than a tech demo. Its creator, former Microsoft Games Studios engineer Erik Ross, noted at the time of its release that he had no intention to monetize the project, though that obviously wasn't enough to satisfy Nintendo's lawyers.
"All the art and animations were done by myself, with the exception of the Mario, Goomba and Power Star meshes, which are ripped (without animations) from Super Mario Galaxy," Ross wrote on his blog earlier this month. "A large portion of the sounds are from existing Mario games, while the ones I found and edited myself are from freesound.org."
Game companies don't often take kindly to their intellectual property being used without their permission, as evidenced by things like fan-made Minecraft movies and Final Fantasy VII web series being shut down.
The fruit of your labor is yours to ripen, but it takes time and patience to see your farm in Story of Seasons—a Harvest Moon game in everything but name—progress beyond a small patch of unripe tomatoes. Tilling dirt, planting seeds, spreading fertilizer, keeping your animals happy and healthy—the list of chores is long (and yes, these are chores.) You won’t gleefully rush to brush your two rabbits and water your spinach crop before the day’s end, but you’ll still push through these menial tasks for the good of the farm. The products that come from the processes drive you to action, and while these procedures are often tedious, the payoff of your hard work is too rich a bounty to resist.He's just so happy!
When you’re first planted into town, there’s actually very little to do. As a new farmer looking to sell your goods and attract fresh business, your customizable character (who can be either male or female) has very few tools and tokens to work with. You’re given a ramshackle dwelling stationed on an unkempt plot of land, as well as an assortment of equipment with rugged grips and dull edges. It’s from this unremarkable cocoon you must emerge, and while the compulsion to create proper plots for crops and to tidy up this agricultural mess is strong, making any real progress takes time. Your first few weeks feel empty, and at times even aimless, since you don’t have the means to accomplish much.
It’s not just your budding flowers, fruits, and grains that determine the pace. It’s your character’s insufficient stamina that drives activity, and while cooking the various purchasable recipes and ordering an entrée at the local restaurant gives you a healthy boost of energy, the consistent burden of running out of juice is wearisome. Every swing of the axe, thrust of the hammer, or flick of the wrist as you water crops affects your stamina, and that’s a nagging, momentum-killing issue early on. Without the proper funds or food (or if it’s a Wednesday and the restaurant’s closed), you can easily wind up with depleted strength before noon. After that, you’re left to either socialize with your neighbors or sleep the day away to fully restore your energy. Story of Seasons’ biggest flaw is its insistence on too literally conveying the world-weary axiom, “There just aren’t enough hours in the day.”
The fruit of your labor is yours to ripen, but it takes time and patience to see your farm in Story of Seasons progress beyond a small patch of unripe tomatoes.
You learn to work within these tight boundaries. After watering your crops and tending to your livestock Monday morning, maybe you’ll spend the next three hours fishing—an activity easy on your stamina—with the hopes of nabbing a rare catch. If it rains on Tuesday and you don’t need to manually water plants (an occurrence you’ll cherish), you can spend the morning selling crops to the merchant visiting the market. From there, you can allot your waning hours of sunlight to chopping down trees to free up additional space for barns, or working the land for all those sweet potato seeds taking up space in your inventory. Once you discover valuable minerals like copper and purchase enough blueprints for new tools, though, the stamina restrictions loosen. By the time I crafted a gold brush and watering can, I was able to attend to almost every errand in a given day without depleting my food bank or splurging at the restaurant.
Unfortunately, digging up dirt and picking up stray branches isn’t fun. In fact, gathering materials and making sure everything on your farm is in tip-top shape before you hit the hay can be an lifeless grind. But even after spending three in-game days doing little more than watering plants and milking cows whilst waiting for a merchant to come to town, the compulsion to continue expanding my empire was strong. After playing a marathon session and with every intention of putting the 3DS down, simply waking up to the pitter-patter of rain against my roof was enough to get me out of my virtual bed and back into the fields. Story of Seasons intelligently doles out new tasks and items that build upon its basic farming mechanics, so it’s easy to just barrel through weeks at a time in anticipation for bigger and better results.Time doesn't grow on trees, Elise!
The deliberately paced farm work coupled with the time between planting crops and seeing results only makes cashing in your trove of goods sweeter. A calendar tells which days of the week merchants come into town, and the more you sell, the more unique buyers visit the market. Different items are also in-demand during certain weeks and with particular buyers, so while you might have moaned and groaned as you slaved over dozens of different plants, selling an entire crop of chili peppers at above-market value can turn the whole game around. This sudden influx of cash allows you to lease new land, buy more cows, or even expand your house.
That’s when Story of Seasons is at its best. After spending weeks digging through your couch cushions for enough loose change to simply feed your cows, finally selling your goods and using this influx of money to upgrade each aspect of your agricultural business is wonderfully satisfying. The subsidiary activities, such as fishing, decorating, and (eventually) mining for rare minerals can be entertaining on their own, but they all feed into Story of Seasons’ primary goal—to build the biggest, best farm possible.
Every swing of the axe, thrust of the hammer, or flick of the wrist as you water crops affects your stamina.
Because of how single-minded you can become, it’s difficult to find entertainment outside of the farm. Poking the townsfolk to hear repetitive dialogue is dull, and the planned events that range from cooking competitions to fashion shows feel more like roadblocks during your daily routine than novel ways to interact with your neighbors. Different events through each of the four seasons do well to break up the pace, but every moment you’re not farming can feel like a waste of effort.
One nagging distraction is the frame rate, which noticeably dips as you travel from screen to screen. Story of Seasons isn’t a visual powerhouse, even if the cartoony characters and vibrant colors of the different seasons are nice to look at. But as soon as you step into a patch of land littered with seeds and budding plants, the presentation stutters. It doesn’t prevent you from completing any specific tasks, but the frame rate remains a consistent nuisance.
Even so, Story of Seasons is a wildly addictive, bizarrely rewarding adventure constrained by tight restrictions that only loosen after a significant time investment. The early pacing problems do well to bolster the sense of progression later in the game, and while the restrictive stamina system tempers the fun early on, the eventual payoff for all your hard work is enhanced by the early days spent toiling in the fields. There are blatant issues—some of which might keep you from advancing beyond the first season—but once Story of Seasons has its hooks in you, it’s difficult to walk away from the farm.
Starships happens to actually be a mobile game--the kind that harks to those days of yore, when "mobile" equated to "simplistic." It released simultaneously on PC, Mac, and iPad, and in more-or-less the same form to boot. And the first things you notice about it are the various ways it seems visually bottlenecked by its tablet version. On PC, it unfurls in a tablet's compacted, low resolution window, and there are no graphical settings to massage. Its sci-fi galaxy is mostly abstracted, and its unit models are simple and blocky. It's not those issues that really put me off of Starships, but rather the way it seems to aspire to that narrow, dated idea of what makes a "good" mobile game. I can turn aside the quick and obvious assaults on PC sensibilities--the rough graphics, the lack of options--but it's the cynical design that guts me, in the end.The abstracted galaxy doesn't try very hard to sell the sci-fi setting.
The titular starships form a single roving fleet on the game's galactic map, and act as the lone controllable unit. From your home base, the fleet can be moved over to any adjacent planet with the press of a button, which triggers combat missions that award points towards bringing the planet into the fold of your empire. Planets under your control confer resources each turn (food, industrial production, science, and energy) that can be spent on upgrades for your starships, or used towards buildings and world wonders that improve your production or military capabilities. The salient goal is to have a majority of the galaxy under your thumb--51%, and no less.
Where Meier's Civilization series accommodates pacifism, there isn't much to do with your Starships fleet on the galactic map except pick fights. There are victory conditions outside of conquering your opponents, sure--controlling X amount of world wonders or researching Y amount of technologies--but these goals take resources to complete, and the only way to fill your storehouses is to perform combat missions and claim planets. The different victories have different names, but they all boil down to exercising military might, which in turn requires trudging through watered down and grossly exploitable battles.
Combat missions set your ships down on a honeycomb game space surrounding a planet. You might be asked to escort a unit (that, mercifully, you also control), or hunt down an escorted one yourself. Or you navigate a maze of asteroids to reach an escape gate, or defeat an enemy boss. The asteroids strewn about the playing field block fire, and black holes teleport ships to other black holes on the map. It's simplistic board game strategy propped up by only the barest of fiction, and eminently exploitable. Every one of your ships can be upgraded to deploy zippy, surprisingly powerful fighters, meaning that in a single turn it's possible to effectively double the size of your fleet. The fighters are fragile, but they're so strong and can quickly cover so much distance that they throw the balance of any fight. Even forgoing them, I found I was able to comfortably win almost every engagement on any difficulty level by committing to longer range lasers and picking off enemies as they tried to approach, one at a time. It's a strategy game without strategy, enabling you to sleepwalk your way to triumph.Combat plays by bland, tired, grid-based formulas.
Starships ostensibly picks things up where Civilization: Beyond Earth left off, but practically speaking, all that means is that the preceding game's cardboard cutout leaders have been stood in front of Starship's backgrounds. Each has a unique stat bonus in place of an actual personality, and their speech is characteristically mechanistic. "Our computer calculations indicate that you have but a 19% chance of dominating this galaxy" is what passes for a greeting in the game's stripped-down version of diplomacy. If you're thinking about declaring war after that (and I wouldn't blame you if you were), it's trivially easy to gauge your odds. Your opponents themselves provide an itemized list of their military assets on request--Starships is wanting for any other, more suitable screen to house the information. There are no ceremonial trappings, here. Two deadpan leaders simply meet, compare spreadsheets, and arrange peace or war accordingly.
You're presented with a similar rundown at the end of missions, tabulating all the ships destroyed and lost, and divvying out bonuses multiplied by various modifiers. Starships throws these figures and calculations at you, but there's nothing useful to be done with the information, as though the game just wants to make sure you know that it did the work. Numbers are always going up a thousand at a time in the game--you get lost in all that effortless forward momentum, and it becomes impossible to care about a few lost hundred here or there.
Beyond Earth's Affinities also make the jump, representing a choice between one of three broad societal values: Purity, Supremacy, or Harmony. But like everything in Starships, they've come unmoored from any cultural tie-downs, and now simply denote which of three arbitrary stat bonuses you feel like beginning the game with. Constructing a wonder means pressing a button when you've got enough of the requisite resource. There's no actual sense of building--a variable has simply shifted somewhere behind the scenes. It's an issue exacerbated by the fact that your ships are functionally immortal--though they appear to blow apart when destroyed in battle, you can still simply repair them afterward for a nominal cost. Even the loss of an entire fleet in a mission simply means being sent back to the planet you arrived from, down a few of the action points you expend to move around on the map on a turn. The stakes of this intragalactic war are at mechanical remove--any one defeat amounts only to an obscure amount of wasted man-hours.Just buy fighter upgrades. Guaranteed win on every difficulty.
As mobile games find new heights, Starships takes its sci-fi premise and uses it to trawl the primordial pools they ascended from. Its planets are suspended in a two dimensional plane, and when your turn is up, enemy fleets dart back and forth among them in seemingly random directions. They look less like interstellar armadas, and more like single celled organisms responding to simple stimuli. They flit about from planet to planet, hex cell to cell, as though guided by the basest biological compulsions, consuming and growing. And you're right alongside them--with a few disinterested clicks or swipes across the screen, killing, conquering, and leveling up.
Dreamfall is and has always been a story about duality--the yin & yang of Stark and Arcadia, magic and science, occupation and rebellion. These themes run deep in Book Two and offer a strong lens through which to view the bond between the journeys of two disparate leads: Zoe Castillo and Kian Alvane. Where Book One told a tale of parallel jailbreaks with Kian's escape from Azadi prison and Zoe's liberation from a Dreamtime-induced coma, Book Two continues this trend with a tale of two spies and a pair of fact-finding missions. With Kian embroiled in the Azadi conflict in Marcuria and Zoe finding herself at odds with the ever-increasing presence of EYE forces in Propast, the heroes launch headfirst into breaking down the mysteries and conspiracies within. And boy, do they have their work cut out for them.
Will Zoe bite The Hand That Feeds?
For starters, Book Two is massive and takes over twice as long to complete as Book One. This is due both in part to the ample story progression and the introduction of a whole new, if familiar, environment in which to explore. While bigger isn't always better (and this is certainly true in some respects here), there is something satisfying about how the episode digs in, offering plenty of time to get lost in the world. There's a lot of meat on those bones, and this is excellent news for those of us who spent their time with the first book waiting for the story to go full-on Longest Journey. Book Two finally hits that stride and wastes no time getting there.
Book Two opens with Kian convalescing at Resistance headquarters, the underground ring of Arcadian rebels formerly led by the Captain to combat the growing Azadi threat. It is as if Robin Hood is being introduced to the band of Merry Magicals: Kian is ordered to prove his loyalty to the cause, and before long, finds himself roaming the streets of Marcuria. While wandering through the city in the game's third-person perspective, it was difficult not to get excited to be back on these old stomping grounds, and I had forgotten just how great a contrast the fantasy vibe of Marcuria provides when juxtaposed against the futuristic, Blade Runner-meets-Beyond Good & Evil aesthetic of Stark.
Like revisiting the house you grew up in many years later, Marcuria is simultaneously familiar and strange. The landmarks are still here (The Magic Market! The Journeyman Inn! The Rooster and Kitty!... wait, didn't that tavern go by a different name before?), but many areas are tweaked, askew, or entirely new. While several popular haunts have been abandoned since the occupation, there are plenty of new nooks and crannies to explore, leaving Marcuria feeling cautiously lively, like a party in a prison cell.
Where Book One told a tale of parallel jailbreaks with Kian's escape from Azadi prison and Zoe's liberation from a Dreamtime-induced coma, Book Two continues this trend with a tale of two spies and a pair of fact-finding missions.
This is not necessarily all for the best, however. As Kian ticks his way down the Resistance's to-do list, he must do so donning an Irhadian Veil so as not to be recognized by his fellow Azadi patrolling the streets. Narratively, this makes perfect sense. Since Kian was initially imprisoned for treason, anonymity should be a high priority. In practice, however, Kian's pace slows to a crawl anytime he passes a guarded gate or entryway, which yields a lot of tedious slow-walking as he makes the transition. As it is, navigating the town is sludgy enough, and you will find yourself holding down the run button constantly just to feel like you’re moving at a reasonable pace. These belligerently slow zones, while not terribly prevalent, are enough to frustrate when moving between areas.
Unfortunately, the same goes for Zoe's trek through Propast as well. While Kian works to dig up dirt on the Azadi in Marcuria, Zoe investigates a possible source of corruption within the political campaign she works for and what, if any, connection there is to the EYE and WATICorp. As Zoe gets closer to the answer, Propast's faux-pen world layout becomes less accessible to her. Roadblocks are increased, security is beefed up, and carving a path through the city becomes a puzzle all on its own. It's an effective way of communicating the EYE's growing threat through environmental storytelling, but as someone who often found himself disoriented on the streets of Propast, I did not appreciate the constant detouring required of Zoe in order to reach many of her destinations.
Perhaps the most baffling detour of Book Two occurs back in Arcadia when Kian is tasked with sneaking into Marcuria Harbor to sabotage a weapons shipment. Apparently, his magical veil loses some of its mojo in this area as the guards here are able to detect Kian's presence if he gets too close, initiating a fail-state. Not only is it an incredibly awkward slog to complete, but my attempts were riddled with bugs, robbing me of success the first couple times I managed to satisfy all passing requirements. It's aggravating and flies in the face of the more cerebral types of quests presented in the series so far. To add insult to burglary, when I finally managed to reach the cut-scene, I was awarded with the Steam achievement, "I Thought There Wouldn't Be Stealth!" Its description reads, "So you thought there wouldn't be stealth and also you suck at it," as if the lack of a proper toolset to engage in stealth--such as sneaking, or crouching, or any sort of visual feedback--had anything to do with the player's input. No, Dreamfall Chapters, it is you who sucks at it.Propast may be a pain to navigate, but it sure is gorgeous.
Mechanical flaws aside, Dreamfall Chapters soars when its quests provide the connective tissue between narrative mystery, tension, and resolution, and Book Two offers some excellent entries in this department. On their own, most missions offer little more than the deduction-based adventure-game fare familiar to Dreamfall vets. But string them together and a bigger picture comes into focus--one that leverages incremental progress with gratifying bursts of dramatic revelation. Without giving too much away, Dreamfall Chapters understands that what makes solving a key puzzle interesting isn't the act of opening the door, but discovering who's behind it and the intense conversations that arise as a result.
On this note, including dialogue choices is a natural progression for the series. As we have been told, Zoe's destination is predetermined, but her path along the way is not. This jives with the way the game's Bioware-style branching conversations work. The details change, but the big finish usually remains consistent. So while there may be less expectation for player choices to have a drastic impact on the final outcome of the plot, they do have a measurable impact on the smaller, more idiosyncratic moments (Reza's lunch will have repercussions!), and I found myself enjoying the smattering of incremental payoffs rather than anticipating a much larger one that may or may not come later. Again, it has a layered effect that, when added up, amount to an effective and intricate feat of storytelling.
It all comes back to the trilogy's bread & butter--its cast of characters. Book Two enjoys more colorful dialogue from the likes of Mira, the abusively foul-mouthed cybernetic chop-shopper; Baruti, the Botswanian campaign manager; and the nefarious Commander Vamon leading the Azadi occupation. If Kian is the Robin Hood of the story, Vamon is undoubtedly the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Dreamfall Chapters soars when its quests provide the connective tissue between narrative mystery, tension, and resolution.
To keep things fresh, there is also an influx of new and notable characters gracing the second act. For instance, in Arcadia there is Lihko, a wounded Dolmari warrior outspoken against Kian's presence who begrudges him for his Azadi heritage and the sacrifice made by the Resistance to save him. He's a complex and conflicted character whose intimidating presence is amplified by his booming voice.
At his side, there is Enu, a sassy feline Zhid with a curious mind and zero filter. In contrast to Lihko, her flirty frankness and positive attitude help to make Kian feel as welcome as possible given the circumstance. Without a doubt she is one of the more interesting and entertaining characters to be introduced so far. Her snarky dialogue and too-much-information attitude, especially regarding sex, inject much-needed comic relief within a group that is otherwise all business.
In addition, there's the mysterious Anna, a cunning rogue who appears to have a history with Kian despite his lapse in memory of any such relationship. Also crawling out of the woodwork is The Mole, Bip the thief, Hanna the punk rock runaway, and even a familiar face or two from Zoe's past. Other than an underwhelming showing by Reza, who's the most consistently mediocre brat of the pack, this episode walks the Dreamfall walk with plenty of meaningful roles to fulfill and subvert the archetypes within. With unique and diverse characters such as these, the series continues its tradition of utilizing a fantastic ensemble cast--an aspect that cannot be understated but was lacking by the end of Book One.Enu, probably telling a sex joke, and Lihko, unamused as usual.
The Longest Journey series is a collection of inhabitable moments and by the end of this act, I appreciated what each moment had amounted to. This is emphasized by the radically tense cliffhanger the episode goes out on, which had me questioning every step that led up to it. As these pivotal moments pass, they offer new opportunities to reflect on the events that have come before them. They have a cumulative effect that changes the way in which you see the big picture. What happens in Stark can inform your understanding of what is happening in Arcadia and vice-versa, for their fates are interconnected. And as Kian and Zoe's worlds parallel each other, Dreamfall's world parallels our own, offering social and political commentary via the themes of its stories and the lives of its inhabitants. Book Two succeeds in reminding us that our destination may be predetermined, but our path is not. It's how we choose to travel, and who we keep by our side, that makes the journey worthwhile.
Axiom Verge is your chance. Following an experiment on Earth gone horribly wrong, you wake up in a strange place known as Sudra. It's a world unlike Earth, where strange biological formations meld with mechanical contraptions to form massive structures. Being inexplicably transported to such a place would rock most people's psyche, but the protagonist, Trace, barely bats an eye. It's weird that he doesn't collapse in shock, honestly, but this misstep doesn't detract from the fact that Axiom Verge's plot is so good at drawing you in with heavy doses of mystery and intrigue. These moments kick off when large mechanical beings known as the Rusulka enter the picture. They act as guides, providing directions in exchange for repairs (something has left them in disarray), and insight into Sudra's troubled history. I'd love to go into greater detail, but to describe the relationship between you and the Rusulka any further would spoil one of the best aspects of Axiom Verge's world. It's a world that emphasizes exploration in the same vein that Super Metroid or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night do, but it's also a quest for knowledge that keeps you guessing until the very end.
As you make your way through Sudra's foreboding world at the behest of the Rusulka, you encounter numerous types of imposing wildlife. The only bad thing that can be said of the enemies in the game is that you occasionally find one that feels out of place, and this small inconsistency is one of a mere couple issues with the game, neither of which are important enough to detract from your enjoyment in a significant way. Big or small, Axiom Verge's enemies command your attention with wildly varying behavior and impressive displays of force. Some let out ear piercing battle cries while slashing at you with great speed, while others use more creative means to attack, such as spewing swarms of energy leeching bugs that are difficult to shake. It takes time and practice to learn how to deal with the trickier enemies, but you quickly gain new weapons as you explore, and thus new methods to defend yourself become available.The drill is one of the first tools that you find, and it's an invaluable aid when digging for Sudra's most elusive items and secret areas.
Your primary weapon, the Axiom Disruptor, fires simple energy-bullets, but you quickly rack up augmentations that make it capable of delivering shotgun-like blasts of electricity, or a beam of current not unlike what you might see in a Ghostbusters movie, for example. With more than a dozen weapons to find, you have to spend a lot of time searching for each and every one. While you don't need every weapon to be efficient at blasting away enemies that stand in your path, you learn to love many of the weapons over time, and who doesn't like having options?
There are other tools to discover that make navigating Sudra manageable, let alone possible. A laser drill lets you plow through rock (and some tough-skinned enemies), revealing new pathways and potential secrets. You eventually find a grappling hook that turns you into a veritable Bionic Commando, allowing you to bridge large gaps and swing across ceilings. Like in Metroid, you can sneak through small tunnels that you find, but not by morphing into a ball. Rather, you find a drone that can do the exploring for you. It has its own life bar and some modest firepower, and while it's out and about, you get to rest inside an impenetrable force field. A quick press of a button, and the drone dismantles itself before zipping back to your location. Eventually, it becomes a remote teleportation device, allowing you to warp to its location.
One tool stands out as the most special of the lot: the Address Disruptor. This device can corrupt enemies or repair garbled matter, which has many implications and uses during your adventure. Sometimes, firing it at glitchy matter will yield a new platform that will help you get to a new location, while other times it can clear a path. The most interesting application, however, is using it to transform enemies. Every enemy has a different reaction to the Address Disruptor, and it's critical to pay attention to the particulars therein. An enemy that spawns laser firing bugs may suddenly spawn life energy once you've corrupted it, while another may start to gnaw away at rock, which you can use to your advantage when trying to access hard to reach areas. There are dozens of different behaviors associated with the Address Disruptor, and it's easily one of the most interesting weapons or tools that I've ever seen in a game.An experiment this dramatic is bound to go wrong.
One enemy's reaction in particular leads me to talk about the game's password system. Within the inventory and map menu lies a place to input passwords. Passwords can trigger different things, such as changing your outfit or allowing you to read previously indecipherable texts. All of the info in the documents you find are supplements to the story, but they also stoke your curiosity to dig deeper into the mysterious events of the past and present. Passwords aren't just given out, you need to work to find them. In one case, a hard to reach document contains a translation string, another reveals itself when you use the Address Disruptor on a glitchy area of the map. My favorite, and the basis of this segue, is the enemy that reveals a code, letter by letter, after it's been corrupted. This particular enemy is only in one room, and even though there are others like it to be found on the map, it only provides a password in this particular instance. Moments like this are when you realize that you must use every tool at your disposal if you hope to uncover all of the secrets that lie within Axiom Verge. It takes a lot of work to find some items, but you get a real sense of accomplishment when you overcome difficult situations by combining your skills in clever ways.
Part of the reason you want to find secrets and secret areas is because you may gain a new weapon or ability, but also because your speed, map coverage, and item percentage have an impact on the game's ending. No matter what, Axiom Verge's final third will satisfy your curiosity and surprise you, but you learn more about Trace if you get through the game with efficiency and an attention to detail.The Address Disruptor is Axiom Verge's defining tool. It can transform enemies into allies and reveal hidden objects, to name just a couple of its effects.
Accomplishing everything it takes to get the absolute best ending isn't easy, especially your first time through. It took me the better part of 14 hours to get through to the end, and even with all of that time, I only uncovered 92% of the map and found 70% of the items. It's not an impressive run by any measure, but it would have been far worse if Axiom Verge punished you for every death, which I experienced dozens of during the course of my journey. Thankfully, dying only sends you back to the last save point on the map with all of your progress kept intact. While this may mean that you're teleported back a significant distance across Sudra, any milestones you've hit are preserved, meaning you don't need to waste precious time repeating previous efforts.
Speaking of repeating previous efforts, once the credits finished rolling, I couldn't wait to jump back in and start Trace's journey all over again. Some games conclude and I'm happy to walk away, but Axiom Verge is such a joy to play, with dozens of tools to play with, and too many secrets to find. The skills and rules you learn inform your expectations and plans, and my second trip through became more about the gameplay than the story, which isn't entirely a bad thing. After all, the better I play, the better the payoff in the end. I'm still working through Sudra for the second time, occasionally going back to my first save to identify things I may have missed so that I'm prepared when I encounter them again.
Axiom Verge is a game that's easy to fall in love with because it hits so many high notes. It takes the Metroidvania model and adds layers of ingenuity that are in a league all of their own, the most notable being the Address Disruptor. Yes it's occasionally drab looking, and some enemies may not fit in with the rest of the world, but when a game is this good, these blemishes quickly fade into the back of your mind. The chilling sci-fi setting, mysterious plot, and a seemingly endless number of abilities keep your mind busy, and your curiosity at fever pitch. It's not a stretch to say that Axiom Verge is better than the games that inspired it, because it's so inventive and thoughtfully crafted. There's no excuse to hold onto the past when the present is this amazing.
OK. It's obviously not Arnold Schwarzenegger, but while defending humanity's last home from incoming enemy spacecraft and environmental hazards, you do randomly spout some famous lines in his voice. It's a fun touch, but don't let the comedic side of Protector get in the way of what's most important: defending that house. You run along the ground, firing into the sky as enemies nosedive into frame. Although the house you're defending can withstand some damage, similar to structures in the classic game Missile Command, all it takes is one hit for you to die in Commando mode, and there are no continues. You do have a few of the same abilities as your spaceship, including bombs and speed boosts, and you can jump, which is useful when ground-based enemies eventually appear. Because you can fire in more than two directions with the right analog stick, Commando mode feels like it has more in common with twin-stick shooters than it does with Resogun.
Blasting through increasingly difficult waves of enemies in Commando mode is challenging and the Schwarzenegger impersonations are humorous, but fighting on foot isn't as thrilling as zipping around in a ship. You don't move particularly fast, and your gun is underpowered for what feels like too long relative to how fast the number of targets increases on screen. This new style of gameplay is intriguing because it's different, but it lacks the sense of speed and excitement that's typical of Resogun. That's not to imply that it's bad or even not fun--you still experience the wonder of voxels and the drive to earn higher and higher scores, and likely a bit of laughter--but Commando mode just doesn't compare to the rest of Resogun.
If you're looking for something more fast-paced and exciting, focus on Protector mode. It plays very similar to Resogun proper, where you zoom around a ring-shaped level, shooting down enemy ships and rescuing vulnerable humans on the ground, but you earn weapons and armor upgrades at a much faster rate than usual. The trade-off is that enemy swarms grow equally fast and you don't start with any extra lives; the only second chances you get are in the form of expendable shields that occasionally come as bonuses for saving humans.
Piloting a fully-upgraded ship is a treat rarely afforded in other modes, where extended boosts and more destructive overdrive cannons are reserved for the best players, so Protector mode is a great way to experience a side of the game that may have been out of reach before. It's oh-so-sweet to have a massively upgraded ship, and because the difficulty also scales fast, you still feel like you're being challenged, even with all of the added firepower.
If Resogun has already run its course in your mind, there's nothing in Defenders that's going to lure you back in for the long haul. Of course, it's hard to imagine how someone could ever get enough Resogun, being that it's one of the best arcade-game experiences in years. In that sense, Defenders is a worthy addition to an already great game that will no doubt please anyone with a fondness for fighting within an inch of their life while also blowing up everything in sight into tiny, beautiful pieces.
The Frostback Basin is a deceptively big zone. What seems easily conquerable on the map screen is actually a sizable and intricate mix of environments. Foothills open up into plateaus, which feature deep, dangerous pits. A lakeshore runs into the bubbling, muddy shallows of the basin, and those turn into misty swamplands and damp jungles. It's all brought to life with vibrant color and fresh ambient sounds. The Frostback Basin feels distinct from the game's other zones, and it's mostly a joy to explore.The environments in Jaws of Hakkon really show off Inquisition’s lighting engine.
I say "mostly," because sometimes it feels like BioWare is trying to stretch out the available content in Jaws of Hakkon. Over the course of eight hours in the Frostback Basin, five different missions make you "follow the trail" across territory you've already explored thoroughly in the course of doing other missions. Most egregious is a mission that sends you around to flip a number of switches scattered across the northern half of the zone. For the previous six hours of play, these switches had been visible but inactive, and I knew that they'd send me back eventually. They did. This decision is particularly strange because Hakkon doesn't need to be stretched in any way. The Frostback Basin is packed with all of the elements that made me love Inquisition to begin with: smart characterization, interesting combat encounters, and carefully written lore.
The Frostback Basin is home to two rival tribes of the Avvar, a human society that briefly pops up early on in Inquisition. The development of these groups (and of the region's history in general) is the high point of Hakkon, and you'll get the most out of this DLC if you dig into the lore about these people and their culture and religion. Dragon Age has always been at its best when the stories it tells are multifaceted and mysterious, and the same is true here: Religious iconography blurs together; magical traditions are at once remarkably similar and fundamentally different; and the final, "true" history is often left unknown.What’s better than hanging out on a moonlit beach with some buds?
Best of all, the Avvar work to break apart the classic binaries that show up throughout the Dragon Age series. They share the Elven relationship to nature, but are human. They're human, but don't belong to any of the major political powers. They're deeply spiritual, but also incredibly practical. They have a strict system to govern the use of magic, but use terms and concepts to explain the magical world that are entirely different than those used by the Templars and Circle of Mages. All of this works to complicate the world of Thedas by providing yet another potential perspective to consider.
This makes it extra frustrating that so little of Jaws of Hakkon shares the cinematic sheen of the rest of Inquisition. Most other zones in the world of Thedas have a mix of two different sorts of quests. Firstly, there are the little, MMOG-style missions you complete for this or that character: kill ten bears, or recover a missing satchel, or perform some other small task. Secondly, there are the major story missions that take you out of the third-person perspective and into a cutscene view, where dramatic music supports characters who emote and animate as the plot unfolds. In Hakkon, only the very beginning and very end of the main questline offer this second sort of storytelling. Throughout the rest of my eight hours, I watched as world-shaking information was delivered without any pomp or luster.Learning about the Avvar culture is a highlight.
If you told me last week that this would bother me, I'd tell you that you'd be absolutely wrong. But here I am, missing the intimate close-ups and the sweeping vistas. (Maybe this shouldn't be be surprising: Imagine an episode of Game of Thrones that never shows the detail of a character's face.) Over the course of the previous 70 hours, Dragon Age: Inquisition had quietly taught me to expect a certain rhythm: I'd meander around a zone until I was ready to commit to one of the many "big" story events. There was a sort of storytelling grammar at work, and by reducing the use of that grammar, Hakkon rarely feels as substantial as it should. Thankfully, the final hour or so of Hakkon does utilize those storytelling tools to great effect, and it joins them with some new, unique mechanics in a series of major combat encounters that build momentum and velocity until an explosive climax.
Though I wish that Jaws of Hakkon was less bloated, and though I miss the cinematic flair of the rest of Dragon Age: Inquisition, I know that in a month I'll have forgotten these quibbles. Instead, I'll remember my time spent in Frostback Basin fondly. I'll remember the sharp wit of Svarah Sun-Hair, the leader of the local Avvar clan. I'll remember the holy symbols that blur the line between competing faiths. I'll remember the mist and the mountains and the sun's light through the trees. I'll remember confronting legendary foes, and the time I got to spend with some of my favorite characters in video games.
Max's story is getting darker. Chloe has warmed up to Max, and the episode opens with our young heroine on her way to meet her old friend for breakfast. She's still dealing with the fallout of her run-in with Nathan Prescott in the previous episode, and--depending on choices you made in the previous episode and a few ones you'll make early in this one--has becoming a looming, omnipresent threat to Max's existence. She's doing her best to balance this danger with being a good friend; not just to Chloe, but to Kate Marsh, another troubled girl. On top of all that, Max is getting wrapped up in Chloe's problems, which turn out to be more sinister than having a militant stepfather. And as before, the adults in Life is Strange act like frightened children, completely inept at being helpful to these angsty teens and behaving in ways that no sensible real-world adult would.
In Episode One, I was bothered by the throwaway mentions of Rachel Amber, the girl who took Max's place as Chloe's bestie after she moved away, and who has since gone missing. Episode Two drops large hints that maybe we're looking at the wrong people; this might not be Max's story after all, but the story of an even greater mystery. There may only be just enough room for Max in Chloe's and her friends' world to solve these horrible problems. A missing girl. An approaching tornado. The one person with the power to stop it all may be the least important in the equation.Every encounter counts.
Adding to the uptick in narrative intrigue is the gradual introduction of the limitations of Max's power. Red splotches crowd the sides of the screen every time you rewind, indicating that Max is physically harming herself with her abilities. Out of Time slaps Max, and you, with the realization that these powers come with a price. This fragility, the knowledge that these powers don't make Max some infallible entity that can perpetually change her choices, gives the choices you do make more weight. Max is no longer balancing teenage problems with unlimited power; she's balancing teenage problems with a dangerous tool that can harm as well as help.
The tone of Episode Two is confusing to place, largely because of lengthy sequences that come across as too "gamey" and thus detract from the story. There are two instances in this episode where Life is Strange aggressively reminds you that it is a video game; the heartfelt narrative of a young girl's struggle to be a force of good takes a backseat to fetch quests and memory puzzles. These moments weaken the tension of Life is Strange and I felt frustrated, as these sequences seem to take up time for the sake of adding some kind of game element. However, I learned to tamp down my impatience, as these moments give limitless breathing room to explore. I learned more about Chloe's relationship with Rachel by scouring a junkyard and more about Kate Marsh's home life by lingering in her dorm room. It doesn't become apparent until the end of the episode that these tedious stretches have huge story impact. This is why I say the tone is confusing; Life is Strange wants you to stay tense and pay attention, yet simultaneously encourages you to stop and smell the roses, without much warning of when you're supposed to do either. The solution is to keep on your toes, look at everything, and talk to everyone, because you genuinely never know when something will be important later.Adults who behave like children, children who are trying to be adults.
This is never more evident than at the episode's end, when "make or break" becomes too light a description for what Max has to do. Every choice you've made in the first two episodes, every decision you made connected to someone around Max, comes to a head here. This is where it ends, and where Life is Strange becomes more than an episodic video game. It becomes a window into the world of the young, where it's either your oyster or it's ending, when you're too naive to think of the future. Bullying, drugs, wanting to be liked, feeling misunderstood, channeling emptiness into lashing out at others--this is why life is strange as a young adult. It's a rare person that doesn't wish she they could go back and get just one more chance with someone, with something.
Out of Time gives real meaning to the choices you've made. And by its conclusion, you'll know whether or not Max, your version of Max, is a bad confidante. The episode's turning point depends on how well you've paid attention to your classmates, how flakey or how helpful you've been for a certain friend. It requires you to have scoured every nook and cranny, poked into every room and fed your curiosity by examining everything. Because if you haven't, the outcome can't be undone under any circumstances. Life is Strange is actively testing how much you, the player, care. It's a subtle way to imbue a lot of power into the choice mechanic, and it sneaks up on you without warning.Is this the relationship that matters most?
Despite the great way Out of Time handles emotional payoff, it suffers from problematic dialogue. Characters will display conflicting emotions over the course of a conversation that ping pong between extremely positive and extremely negative, without cause. In one instance, a character warms up to you and comments how you've been missed, and when you respond positively she suddenly, nastily, ask if you're making up for something you did wrong in Episode One. Another instance has someone admit she knows you care about her, and when you say that yes, you do care, she suddenly shouts that nobody cares about her. It makes no sense and makes many of these conversations feel like uphill battles in the dark. It's harder to placate someone or do what you think is right when there's a good chance that no matter what you say his or her response is completely out of your control.
Life is Strange still has problems with its dialogue and pacing, but Episode Two reaches emotional heights that are worth the journey. Your choices as Max are finally beginning to take on meaning, and the trajectory of her role in this messy story is more unclear than ever. But that's a good thing; stories about people with infallible power are boring. Max is no superhero; she's just a girl trying to be just and do right by everybody. But like in the real world, trying to please everyone has consequences, and Life is Strange lets you know that with a shot right to the heart.
Screen size is the primary factor dictating which features do and don't work across handhelds and console-based games. It's this, amid all of its splendid and eventual intrigue that the classic RPG Xenoblade Chronicles 3D has either failed to understand or simply not tackled for fear of altering what made its original incarnation so great. While it remains the remarkable game that it was when it was first released on the Wii in 2011, the reduced screen size Xenoblade Chronicles 3D has been squeezed on to does sour the experience.
The sense of scale generated by the game's imposingly large environments has been retained, as has the wider visual flair and depth of battles. Similarly, character models when viewed up close are surprisingly expressive given the limited colors and lines used to draw them. However, it's the little details that have suffered from the transition from the large to small screen.
Icons indicating the availability of a new quest or the presence of a shopkeeper, for instance, alongside the directional area pointing you to your next objective are far from clear and easy to miss amongst the extensive buffet of other imagery typically filling the screen. The latter can be especially confusing at times, forcing you to slow down your exploration efforts in order to perform constant references of the full map.
Everything feels a little cramped and, as a result, messy. Simple visual cues that should be easily digestible at a glance take too long to figure out, reducing the simplicity of interaction that allowed the Wii original to stretch its wings and present its more complex nuances with precision and clarity.
The New 3DS' 3D effect doesn't help either, further complicating the issue of space by overloading the visual impact. It's most noticeable when trying to identify enemies at a distant that are painted a similar shade to their environment. While the 3D is gorgeous during cut-scenes and moments not requiring much (or any) interaction, it gets in the way when the action picks up. Having to constantly turn it on and off is a minor problem given the New 3DS' positioning of the 3D slider, but it remains a nuisance.
That's New 3DS with a capital 'n' by design, because Xenoblade Chronicles 3DS only works on Nintendo's latest handheld iteration. Yes, if you have an older model you will have to pull out your wallet and part with your cash. It's the first game to require the new model by default and, as such, much is riding on its success--particularly the overriding consumer view of the hardware.
It's a shame, then, that more care hasn't been given to the macro details; if it wasn't for those it would be tempting to award this experience something approaching top marks. In all other areas this is an RPG that delivers the same extraordinary experience it did four years ago. Such was the originality of its ideas back then that today it makes the majority of its younger genre peers look positively archaic by comparison.
The real-time combat system shines especially bright, offering a deceptively easy to learn set of rules that are continually enriched and diversified as you're drawn further into the plot and up the character levels. For instance, attacking from behind can cause extra damage, while attacking from the side can lower physical defense. Later you can chain character-specific moves between all three characters, adding more depth to already intricate combat. By opening the door to new tactical avenues so frequently, and providing a wide range of enemies to test them against, there's rarely an area or period of play in which battles feel stale or repetitive.
Considering the length of the game, some 70 hours or more, this should be considered a towering achievement. It's a shame that the visual restrictions do inhibit some of the combat's appeal in comparison to the Wii edition, but it's worth sticking with it to explore and appreciate the varied action during skirmishes. It's also worth checking out Xenoblade's many side quests, which--thanks to some deep subplots and character exploration--are far more interesting than the run-of-the-mill fetch quests you'd find in lesser RPGs.
Similar time and effort has gone into the narrative, a tale of giant titans and warring colonies that's rich and energetically presented thanks to a skilfully orchestrated English-language localization effort. While the voiceover work is most certainly pointed towards the sillier and more childlike end of the acting spectrum, the charm with which it has been carried out makes it difficult not to enjoy.
The style of acting provides an accurate barometer for the wider experience as whole; Xenoblade Chronicles is so unlike what most other Japanese RPGs have attempted over the past decade or so. Dialogue and character reactions rarely fall foul of the stifling conventional cliches that can plague even the most revered games in this genre, mirroring the degree to which you're pleasantly surprised by the scale of the world and the combat. Xenoblade might have been crammed into a smaller space, but that has certainly not diminished the well-rounded and varied characterization of its cast.
While it's an inferior proposition to its initial release in 2011, Xenoblade Chronicles 3D remains superior to the majority of RPGs. The move to 3DS has harmed the act of playing, but if you can look past the clunky signage and questionable 3D then you'll find a game that remains an amazing high point for the genre, one that'll absorb you right up to its glorious finale.